The monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos dates back to the Visigothic period of the 7th century. In the 10th century, the abbey was called San Sebastián de Silos, but acquired its current name when Santo Domingo was entrusted to renovate the abbey by Fernando the Great, King of Castile and León. The abbot designed the church to have a central nave with two side aisles and five chapels attached to its apse and transept. When Santo Domingo died in 1073, work on the church and the cloister was handed over to Abbot Fortunius, who saw the rest of the construction to its completion. The church was subsequently rebuilt by the neoclassical architect Ventura Rodríguez.

In 1835 the abbey of Silos was closed, along with other monasteries in Spain. Benedictine monks from Solesmes in France revived the foundation in 1880.

The two-storey cloister of the monastery, which has large capitals with carved scenes, and also relief panels, is considered a masterpiece of Romanesque art. The capitals in the lower cloister are decorated with dragons, centaurs, lattices, and mermaids. There is also an important Romanesque free-standing enthroned Madonna and Child. The cloisters are the only surviving part of the monastery that hasn't changed since its inception. The cloister is an angled rectangular shape with 16 semi-circular arches on the north and south sides and 14 semi-circular arches on the west and east sides. The lower storey was begun during the last quarter of the 11th century and completed in the second half of the 12th century. The lower storey's date derives from an epitaph of the eponymous Santo Domingo, who died in 1073, which is located on the abacus of a group of four capitals in the north gallery. The cloister was dedicated on September 29, 1088. Additionally, the upper story of the cloister, which was placed upon the wooden vaulting of the first story, was completed during the 12th century.

Together with the library of Toledo Cathedral, the Silos Library was the main repository of liturgical manuscripts of the Mozarabic rite until many were auctioned in 1878. The library still contains the Missal of Silos, the oldest Western manuscript on paper. There is a historic pharmacy with a specialist library.

The cloisters and pharmacy are open to the public. Visitors are also able to attend services such as vespers in the abbey church. Access to the library is restricted to researchers.

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Founded: 7th century AD
Category: Religious sites in Spain

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